For the first time in Western Writers of America’s 60-plus-year history, two women hold the top executive positions. Sherry Monahan was elected president of the organization, taking office in June, and Candy Moulton has held the executive director’s position since 2011.
“It’s an exciting honor that Candy and I are the first two women to garner this accomplishment,” says Monahan, a nonfiction writer who lives in North Carolina whose books include Mrs. Earp: Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers. Moulton, a Wyoming native, is a two-time Spur Award winner for the biography Chief Joseph: Guardian of the People and the documentary In Pursuit of a Dream.
Incorporated in 1953 to promote and honor the literature of the American West, the nonprofit Western Writers of America today has more than 650 members – writers of not just traditional Western stories, but historical novelists, nonfiction writers, historians, academics, poets, songwriters and screenwriters.
Its members include mystery writers Anne Hillerman, C.J. Box and Craig Johnson, historical novelists Lucia St. Clair Robson, Thomas Cobb and Stephen Harrigan, historians Paul Andrew Hutton, James Donovan and Robert M. Utley, thriller writer David Morrell, romance writer Kat Martin and screenwriter Kirk Ellis, the organization’s vice president.
Monahan’s top priority, with the support of Moulton and the rest of the executive board, is to increase awareness of WWA. “WWA authors have one thing in common – our work in every medium is set in the ever-changing American West,” Monahan says.
WWA awards annual Spur Awards for the year’s best published works dealing with the American West. The 2015 convention, during which Spurs for material published in 2014 will be honored, is scheduled June 23-27 in Lubbock, Texas.
ENCAMPMENT, Wyo. – Anne Hillerman’s Spider Woman’s Daughter – which continues the popular mystery series created by her late father, Tony Hillerman – won the 2014 Spur Award for Best First Novel, while Mark Lee Gardner won two Spurs for works dealing with the James-Younger Gang, Western Writers of America has announced.
Gardner won in the Best Western Nonfiction – Historical category for Shot all to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape (published by William Morrow/HarperCollins) and for Best Western Short Nonfiction with “The Other James Brother,” an article published in Wild West magazine that deals with Frank James, Jesse James’s older brother. HarperCollins published Spider Woman’s Daughter.
Since 1953, Western Writers of America (www.westernwriters.org) has promoted and honored the best in Western literature with the annual Spur Awards, selected by panels of judges. Awards, for material published last year, are given for works whose inspiration, image, and literary excellence best represent the reality and spirit of the American West.
The 2014 Spur winners and finalists will be honored during WWA’s annual convention, June 24-28 in Sacramento, Calif.
In the novel categories, mystery writer James Lee Burke’s Light of the World: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (Simon & Schuster) won for Best Western Contemporary Novel; Henry Chappell’s Silent We Stood (Texas Tech University Press) won for Best Western Historical Novel; and Gary Schanbacher’s Crossing Purgatory (Pegasus) won for Best Western Traditional Novel.
The Storyteller Spur for Best Illustrated Children’s Book went to Yosemite’s Songster: One Coyote’s Story (Yosemite Conservancy), written by Ginger Wadsworth and illustrated by Daniel San Souci.
Earle Labor’s Jack London: An American Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) for Best Western Nonfiction – Biography; William Philpott’s Vactionland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country (University of Washington Press) for Best Western Nonfiction – Contemporary; Ellen Gray Massey Papa’s Gold (Pen-L) for Best Western Juvenile Fiction; Jean A. Lukesh’s Eagle of Delight: Portrait of the Plains Indian Girl in the White House (Field Mouse Productions) for Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction; Waddie Mitchell and Juni Fisher’s “Still There” (Red Geetar Music) for Best Western Song; Brett Cogburn’s “Cabin Fever” (High Hill Press) for Best Western Short Fiction Story; Amy Glynn Greacen’s “Chamise” (Orion) for Best Western Poem; and Indian Relay by M. Smoker (Dye Works Film) for Best Western Documentary Script.
Complete winners and finalists are posted on this website.
Robert J. Conley is the 2014 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America as its highest honor and will be presented during the organization’s annual convention in June in Sacramento, Calif.
Conley, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies and Founding Director of the Tsalagi Institute at Western Carolina University. He is the immediate past president of Western Writers of America, and the author of around 80 books, including the Spur Award-winning novels “The Dark Island” and “Nickajack.” He also won a Spur for his short story “Yellow Bird: An Imaginary Autobiography,” published in “The Witch of Goingsnake.” Among his other novels are “Mountain Windsong,” “War Woman,” “Cherokee Dragon,” “Sequoyah” and “Brass.”
Conley has blended a career as a novelist with historical research and publishing, including material about his tribe: “A Cherokee Encyclopedia” and “Cherokee Thoughts Honest & Uncensored.” His poems and short stories have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies over the years in Germany, France, Belgium, New Zealand and Yugoslavia. They appear in multiple languages: English, Cherokee, German, French, and Macedonian. He also wrote the novelization of a screenplay, “Geronimo: An American Legend,” published in the United States by Pocket Books and reprinted in translation in Italy.
His first novel, “Back to Malachi,” was written “out of anger,” Conley says, rooted in misrepresentations of Ned Christie, “a Cherokee who was falsely accused of murder and hounded for 4½ years before he was killed by a huge posse.” At the time, publishers did not believe they could publish a Western with an Indian protagonist, but Conley’s work broke the threshold and he would go on to assist in the early development of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers, which encourages American Indian writers.
Five Star Publishing
Western Writers of America has selected Five Star Publishing to receive the 2013 Lariat Award. This special award is given to those who have achieved distinction in their support of Western Writers of America and the literature of the West.
Waterville, Maine-based Five Star, an imprint of Gale, part of Cengage Learning, debuted in 1995 with four original Western titles published in hardcover format. Five Star’s Westerns have earned rave reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, with hundreds of titles reviewed to date. Western Writers of America has honored multiple Five Star Western titles with Spur Awards for their superior quality.
Five Star has published several Spur Award-winning books, including The Kiowa Verdict by Cynthia Haselhoff, Doubtful Cañon, Hard Winter, and Legacy of a Lawman by Johnny D. Boggs, and the Spur Award-winning Short Story “Crucifixion River” in the anthology of the same name by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini.
Max Brand, Bill Brooks, Zane Grey, Fred Grove, Ray Hogan, L. P. Holmes, Louis L’Amour, Wayne D. Overholser, Stephen Overholser, Lauren Paine, Joanne Sundell, and Michael Zimmer have also been published by Five Star. In July, Five Star launches a new line of original Frontier Fiction with initial titles by John D. Nesbitt, Monty McCord, Tim Champlin and Pam Nowak.
The publications under the new program, offered in hardcover library bindings, will consist of a range of subgenres including, but not limited to, mystery, romance, and women’s fiction, all taking place in a frontier setting. They are written by well-known authors as well as emerging voices in Frontier Fiction.
The Lariat Award has been bestowed seven times. Previous awards have been presented to the University of Oklahoma Press, True West Magazine, Tom Doherty/Forge Books, Caxton Press, Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books, Luther Wilson University Press Director, and High Plains Press.
Jory T. Sherman is the 2013 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America (WWA) as its highest honor and will be presented during the organization’s annual convention in June in Las Vegas, NV.
From his early years as a Beatnik era poet in San Francisco to the present, when he is still writing at age 80, Sherman has been putting words to paper. His body of work — an amazing number of books, poems, articles, and essays including well more than 400 novels — includes the Spur Award-winning novel Medicine Horn, a fur-trade story that was the first of a series he called The Buckskinners.
The publication of Grass Kingdom proved to be a turning point in his writing life. It was a major historical novel, the first in Sherman’s epic Barons of Texas series of novels dealing with the ranching Baron family of Texas through several generations. That series cemented his reputation as a distinguished storyteller of the American West.
“Jory Sherman has inspired many writers throughout the years,” said novelist Matt Braun. “He writes novels of excellence and his work ethic has made him one of the most prolific authors of all time. He ranks among the top Western writers of any generation, and his lifetime contribution to the literature of the American West clearly deserves the honor of the Owen Wister Award.”
But writing fiction is only one facet of a varied career. He is also a book packager, and at one point his Taneycomo packaging company was generating 52 titles a year for various paperback houses. The most notable of these was the Rivers West series, published by Bantam, with stories set upon the great rivers of the American West.
“Jory generously gave of himself in encouraging other writers,” WWA President Dusty Richards said, adding, “He showed many of us better ways to express ourselves.”
His writings are largely prose poems, the poet in him shaping his stories and often giving them a lyrical quality. He has the gift of language, and can paint vivid portraits not only of his characters, but the surrounding world in which their stories play out.
The Wister Award is a bronze statue of a buffalo created especially for Western Writers of America by artist Robert Duffie. It will be presented June 29.
Loren D. Estleman, recognized for both his Western and mystery novels, is the 2012 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America (WWA) as its highest honor and will be presented during the organization’s annual convention in June in Albuquerque, NM.
The Michigan resident, a past president of Western Writers of America, has already received Spur Awards for his novels The Undertaker’s Wife, Journey of the Dead, Aces & Eights, and his short stories, “The Bandit,” and “The Alchemist.”
He has received Western Heritage Wrangler Awards for Journey of the Dead, The Master Executioner, and his short story, “Iron Dollar.” Among his other publications are the novels Roy & Lillie: A Love Story (2010); The Branch and the Scaffold (2009); The Adventures of Johnny Vermillion (2006), and Black Power, White Smoke (2002).
“Loren’s contributions to the literature will endure for generations,” said Owen Wister Award recipient and Spur Award-winning writer Richard S. Wheeler. “He is the master of understatement, the quiet phrase that opens up whole worlds of character, or throws and arc light on the event he is portraying.”
Tom Doherty, president and publisher at Tom Doherty Associates, Tor/Forge Books, noted that Estleman is a master storyteller. “I’ve had the privilege of publishing Loren’s work for over 20 years and as I begin each book, I know I’m in for a new and special treat,” Doherty said.
The Wister Award is a bronze statue of a buffalo created especially for Western Writers of America by artist Robert Duffie. It will be presented June 16.
High Plains Press – Nancy Curtis, Publisher
Western Writers of America has selected High Plains Press, to receive the 2012 Lariat Award. This special award is given to those who have achieved distinction in their support of Western Writers of America and the literature of the West.
Proving that neither location nor size affects good work, High Plains Press, which operates on a cattle ranch near Glendo, Wyoming, has won five Wrangler Awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum for poetry, a Willa award and several Willa finalist awards from Women Writing the West, several finalist awards in the Western Writers of America Spur Awards, and finalists in the Ben Franklin Awards competitions. Publisher Nancy Curtis has also published several winners for book awards from the Wyoming Historical Society.
Among the authors Curtis has published are Larry K. Brown, Gaydell Collier, Laurie Wagner Buyer, Lori Van Pelt, Diana Kouris, Robert Roripaugh, a past Wyoming Poet Laureate, Tom Lindmier, Mary Alice Gunderson, Peggy Simpson Curry, Candy Moulton, Charles Levendosky, Chip Carlson, W. C. Jameson, Gladys B. Beery, Linda Hasselstrom, and Jane Candia Coleman.
Curtis received the 2010 Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award for her contribution to writing. She is also the co-editor with Linda Hasselstrom and Gaydell Collier of three collections of writing by plainswomen published by Houghton Mifflin: Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, and Crazy Woman Creek.
This honor has only been bestowed six times. Previous awards have been presented to the University of Oklahoma Press, True West Magazine, Tom Doherty/Forge Books, Caxton Press, Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books, and Luther Wilson University Press Director.